“The Celts fear neither earthquakes nor the waves.”
Nearly six years ago, Chronicles published “Death Before Dishonor,” an article I wrote about the westward march of the American pioneer. Much of the time, I was writing about the Scotch-Irish—or Scots-Irish, if you prefer. These hard-edged folks were in the vanguard of the movement across the continent—and God help those who stood in their way. James Webb’s Born Fighting is devoted to the occasionally perverse, often irascible, and always independent and courageous Scots-Irish. If ever a people were born fighting, it was these sons of Ulster.
Webb writes well and often—I read his Fields of Fire when it first appeared in 1978 (most Marines I knew did)—but not until now, after six novels, has he produced his first work of nonfiction. Part history, part sociology, part personal, and all fast-paced well-written romp, Born Fighting will keep the reader up at night turning page after page. It is not a comprehensive history of the Scots-Irish or a thorough analysis of their culture, which has been done well by James Leyburn in The Scotch-Irish: A Social History (1962) and Grady McWhiney in Cracker Culture: Celtic Ways in the Old South (1988), among...